Four Poems

By Robert Balun

In honor of National Poetry Month, I want to remember an extraordinary weekend of poetry, learning, and community. Last December, I joined a troupe of 20 writers and poets at a Garrison Institute workshop called “Imagining Your Voice on the Page.” The idyllic grounds, under a blanket of freshly fallen snow, seemed to tuck us in for three days of self-reflection and purposeful writing. Robert Polito and Gregory Pardlo, our superb teachers for the weekend, facilitated conversation, provided insightful feedback, and inspired us to listen to the voice within. “Say it’s morning and it’s morning…” I heard myself say. It is the opening line of my poem “First.”

I have always been interested in people and the spaces they occupy, so the guidance provided at Garrison for plumbing the depths of my own experience felt like an essential gift. And though my poems tend toward the abstract, I hope you will experience a sensation of recognition in them.

As a poet and adjunct professor at The City College of New York, I have shared the wisdom and contemplative spirit of the Garrison Institute with my students, offering the same essential gifts that were given there to me.

Please note: The next poetry workshop at the Garrison Institute is with Robert Polito and Tina Chang on September 8-10, “No Walls Here: Writing and Art along the Edges, Borders, and Margins.”


say it’s morning and it’s morning

and if you could please
take these strands of early light
hand them back to me
all assembled

I’ll wait for the tidy conclusions
to all of my problems
to ripple through

this little map of a dream

say it’s morning
but then today
gets messy

another day of news
the texture I’ll get filled with

and anxious like a cigarette

the first step of the commute
the turn at the end of the block

another branching
idea in time

the memory I
get folded up in—

if you could please sing a song
spin it into breath
send it out into the day

say it’s morning then ask
what do you want to fill your head with

I’ll press empty buttons
look at my marks in the ledger

say it’s morning and again
the weather collapses

we’ll look for our inheritance
the map is a fractal

I think I’ll have enough for the rent this month

the rest can be sacred

I’ll look for the clouds you scattered from the window
zion tagged across the ledges

you know all that talk is bad for you
a head full of time
you should be leaving

but the door is a door that might be a door
but is really just filled with landscape

flowerbeds vivid
in persistent lighting
on and on into access 



inside this you
is the past
handcuffed to
the dream
but tomorrow
morning is perfect
searching a bed
for wishes
I know
you want
me to tell you
that I know
you want me
to tell you
it’s fine
to slip by
and lie down
suspended in
the subatomic
cloud system of
return to light



I crawl
through the
until I feel


Decor, Trade, and Distance

sifting through the dispatches

I quiet
I distance

I pick through
a bowl for the perfect cherry

no warped or dappled skin

no worn out clingstone—

to wait for light to begin
its chromatic collapse

to sing time to its gone

beneath the immaculate

to wake up in the middle of a

[                       ]

call it time falling through a glass—

stuck in the dream

we get bad wisdom—

tell me about this life

say we’ll look through the wilderness
we’ll look for morning

we’ll look for who I say I want to be

the favored projection

the icon bought with wind

to dissolve to ephemeral

the random standard bits

head held flat
to be filled
specimen of specie

to cling to
the wandering

say we’ll get there by morning 


Robert Balun is an adjunct at The City College of New York, where he teaches creative writing and composition. His poems have recently appeared (or will soon) in Barrow Street, Prelude, Poor Claudia, Apogee, Cosmonauts Avenue, and others. He completed his MFA at The City College of New York, where he received the Jerome Lowell DeJur Prize and the Teacher-writer Award. 

Photos courtesy of

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